Since taking over Penally Abbey in 2014, Melanie and Lucas Boissevain have made the most of their limited time in charge of the hotel creating a comfortable home-from-home feel catering to a variety of guests. That time and effort has now been rewarded with a nomination for the Independent Hotel Show Awards in the ‘Outstanding New Hotel’ category.
The 18th century building, with eleven guest rooms across three floors, boasts historic gardens and a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea. Traditional Welsh dining is served in the restaurant using only the best locally sourced ingredients.
When they originally took over the property, Melanie and Lucas initially ran it for six months before closing down after Christmas for two months to carry out major overhaul of the building’s basic services and the interior design. All guest beds were replaced and fresh crisp white cotton bed linen added. Bathrooms were revamped with marble and sparkly showers. As Melanie told Premier Hospitality, the aim was to strike a design balance:
“It’s very comfortable. We didn’t want to go too trendy or too country house because we wanted to appeal to all kinds of demographics. We wanted to create the sort of hotel that we’d like to stay in.
“It’s very much a home from home feel that we wanted to create. We have guests from all over the world looking for something typically British. We try to cater for all of this really without trying to be too cool or too trendy.”
Melanie’s background in interior design helped save time and money along with Lucas’s background in Project management and Chartered Accountancy. These skills enabled the couple to get the exact feel they wanted. They worked alongside building company Elite Line Ltd for major aspects of the project while local firms were brought in for specific areas. A firm of architects in Cardiff, for example, was appointed to provide plans in order to gain Listed Building consent. In addition to this an Archaeologist was engaged to oversee parts of the development.
Slightly trickier was sorting out some of the basic problems they had inherited. Lucas explained:
“The basic underpinning services were in a very poor state. If the hotel was fully occupied you couldn’t have showers. So we replaced all the plumbing and centralised the plant room. The house was essentially gutted. A substantial amount spent bringing in new service and re-plumbing the building so we could get to the level of service that guests require when operating at full capacity.”
More recently, a beautiful new space has been created in the form of an old chapel that had previously been part of the abbey. Known as ‘The Courtyard’, this space has high ceilings, exposed beams and new Belgian chandeliers. A separate bar was also added adjoining the Courtyard, so that this space is completely self-contained from the rest of the hotel and is available for any special private occasion.
In the spring and summer the gardens are perfect for exploring, showcasing a variety of scented planting blooms along with wildflowers as befitting a coastal backdrop and wonderful sea view. A sitting room and a snug bar have the winter months covered where guests can to curl up by the fire with a Welsh whiskey or a glass of local craft beer.
A series of glowing reviews in national newspapers has enabled the hotel to build up an excellent reputation in the industry. Even so, the Independent Hotel Show nomination has come out of the blue, with Melanie adding:
“This is totally out of the blue for us! We’re really shocked as we are competing against incredible and wonderful hotels. It’s thrilling and exciting. I don’t for a minute expect we’ll win it but it’s a thrill to be nominated. It’s great to see all our hard work and the dedication of our small but wonderful team recognized.”